fashion, functionality, and aesthetics

On Monday I watched The September Issue as part of a lethargic end to an otherwise busy day.  It follows Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor-in-chief, and some of her associates--editors, designers, photographers, etc.--as they put together the September 2007 issue.  I know I'm way behind the times as this movie came out in 2009, but so it goes.

It starts off with an interview quote from Anna (my own transcription):
I think what I often see is that people are frightened of fashion and that because it scares them or makes them feel insecure, they put it down. ... On the whole, people that say demeaning things about our world, I think that's usually because in some way they feel excluded or--you know--not part of the 'cool group' or ... so as a result, they just mock it. ... Just because you like to put on a beautiful Carolina Herrera dress or a--I don't know--or a pair of J Brand blue jeans that, you know, instead of something basic from Kmart, it doesn't mean that you're a dumb person. ... There is something about fashion that can make people very nervous.
This opening hit me very negatively.  It felt like the middle school rant of an elitist.  (For reference, the cheapest Caroline Herrera dress I could find online was $495, but most of them were in the range of just under $2,000 to just under $4,000.)  Throughout the documentary, it because clear that Anna received little support at home. Her own daughter implied that fashion wasn't terribly important to her and planned to go into law.  Anna also said that her three high-achieving siblings (a political editor, a deputy-general secretary of the Public Services International union, and an official on a local council who works in low-income housing) all thought her work was "amusing."

I think Vouge is pretty to look at (at least the few times I have) and I'm sure the general population gleans tidbits for daily use, intentionally or not.  For me, I really don't like changing my wardrobe constantly.  I might combine clothes in new ways, but I'll rarely buy anything new.

Clothing, along with other elements of fashion and design, has two main components: functionality and aesthetics. Arguably, aesthetic appeal is a function of an object, but I'd like to distinguish them for the sake of this exposition; an item is functional if it is easy to obtain, maintain, and use.  While functionality is slightly subjective, aesthetics is mostly subjective and varies in importance depending on the person and item in question.  For every individual, they maximize the combination of functionality and aesthetics; for Anna Wintour, aesthetics of clothes is obviously a very high priority.

I'm a very visual person and care greatly about how things look: my clothes, my house, my car, my food.  Luckily, I've developed a minimalist bent, which ends up being fairly functional as well.  For instance, when I was searching for a simple white sugar bowl, the cheapest Target-brand one was exactly what I wanted.  It doesn't always work out quite so nicely, though, and sometimes I have to settle.  I guess what I'm getting at is that aesthetic appeal of an object is worth considering; valuing it "doesn't mean that you're a dumb person" as Anna Wintour said, but it's important to acknowledge that others have different value systems and also to know yourself and develop your own balance.

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

I agree with you. I really grew to like the whimsical Grace Coddington in that. The only time Anna was delightful at all was at the Neiman's meeting, selling Vogue. haha.